In my last posting, I asked, “Why the Ho Chi Minh Trail?”… then promptly answered, “If you have to ask, then this isn’t for you.”
However, a good question is, why do I want to do this? Well… it started a few years ago when I wrote two books: “Memories of Naked Fanny,” and “More Memories of Naked Fanny.” For those that don’t know, “Naked Fanny” is a nickname GIs gave a US Air Base in the Second Indochina War.* The official name was “Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base.” (Also known as NKP) But, it was really a US base launching air strikes against the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
I was at “Naked Fanny” from 1968 to 1969. I knew at the time (’68-’69) we were dropping tons of bombs on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I was right in the middle of it by loading bombs on the wings & bomb-bays of airplanes and sending them off. When the planes came back, the wings and bomb-bays were empty.
I wrote both books to chronicle my memories and the memories others who were there. As I researched for the books, I learned the names of places I didn’t know before. Names like, the Mu Gia Pass, Ban Phanop, the Ban Loboy Ford, Harley’s Valley (which I have renamed the Guillet – Harley Valley), and Tchepone (Xepon).
I learned about “Lima Sites” like LS20A (also known as, “Alternate”), LS85, and LS36 (“The Alamo”). I learned part of the war effort was supporting the Royal Laotian Army. The war raged in an area referred to as Barrel Roll… in and around an area the French named the “Plaine des Jarres (Plain of Jars)… or just PDJ as American pilots called it.
I learned about places I still can’t pronounce. Places where friends and strangers were shot down on their missions… where rescues and heroism beyond imagination prevailed… and where some of those friends and strangers died.
I decided that rather than just reading about the places, I had to go there and see for myself. So…this “Trail Ride” is about going to see those places, on the ground, first hand.
* Americans call it the “Vietnam War,” but it was much more than that. The war included the “Secret War” in Laos. It also included Cambodia and even some insurgency in Thailand. Much of the world calls it the Second Indochina War, and I use that because it is much more correct than just calling it the Vietnam War.